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Finisterra - Revista Portuguesa de Geografia

versão impressa ISSN 0430-5027


LOPES, Luís Seabra. The distribution of weight standards to Portuguese cities and towns in the early 16th century: administrative, demographic and economic factors. Finisterra [online]. 2019, n.112, pp.45-70. ISSN 0430-5027.

This paper studies how the reform of weights of Manuel I, King of Portugal, unfolded. Some key documents overlooked, until now, by the historians of metrology illuminate the early days of the reform. In a letter of May 1503, the king announced the delivery of the new standards to the municipalities and scheduled the entry into force of the new system for January 1504. Municipal documents tell us that the manueline standards were already being delivered in July 1503 and that the new system did come into force in 1504. In the following decades, as the documentation shows, the manueline rules remained in force and the regional authorities sought to ensure their application. It is also known that many municipalities were given exemptions from adopting the standards, considering their smallness, poverty or lack of trade. Crosschecking the recently elaborated inventory of manueline weight piles with data from the 1527-1532 administrative and demographic survey of the whole kingdom allows for a more substantial analysis of how this process unfolded. More than the global population and size of a municipality, it was the population and importance of its chief urban center that mainly influenced on the decision of acquiring a manueline pile.

Palavras-chave : Manueline reform; weight reform; manueline weight piles; demography; urban centers.

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